THE POLICYMAKING PROCESS IN 2010…. In theory, this should be a straightforward exercise. Unemployment is painfully high, and threatens a fragile economic recovery. The stimulus package approved last year has made a considerable difference in improving the jobs landscape, but it’s pretty obvious policymakers need to take additional steps.
So, President Obama presented a plan, the House passed a strong bill, and given that it’s a 59-41 split in the Senate, finishing the effort should be easy. Except, Republicans will filibuster any bill they don’t like — thanks again, Massachusetts — and they don’t like any bill that might actually put more Americans back to work.
Republicans will ask if Obama’s willing to consider an across-the-board tax cut. He’ll say no, because he doesn’t think it will create jobs and he knows it will add significantly to the deficit. Then Republicans will say they couldn’t reach a deal, Obama will have to build a job creation bill with Democrats only, and Republicans will counter every proposal with: “This is more of the same old failed policies from Democrats, who are spending our way into a bottomless hole and tragically burdening on our children with debt without doing a thing create jobs.”
That will re-dig the trenches. Mainstream news will describe Congress as a partisan pit, and public opinion will begin to turn against the bill because they think Democrats are forcing legislation through, and the bill is taking too long to come together, and they don’t think it will work, anyway because the press surrounding the bill will be mostly negative. Moderate Democrats will get nervous and ask to pare down the bill, which will probably make it less effective, and months later, if Democrats actually pass the weak-sauce law, it will necessarily lose Republicans, alienate independents and frustrate liberals.
I know why the White House is trying to create a jobs bill that enjoys bipartisan support, beyond public appearances — it doesn’t have much of a choice. The package needs to pass the broken and dysfunctional Senate, and Republicans are not above filibustering a jobs bill in the midst of an unemployment crisis. Thanks to unprecedented obstructionism, a bill with “only” majority support necessarily fails.
So, we’re left with this. Good legislation that enjoys majority support can’t get a floor vote because Republicans act like children. Worse legislation that might enjoy some bipartisan support can get a floor vote — but won’t do enough to actually create jobs, which ostensibly is the purpose of a jobs bill.
The state of the legislative process is untenable.